Presents charter of demands to a yielding Ramesh for checking Naxal menace
Amid persisting Maoist menace in the newly-created tribal-dominated Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, Collector Alex Paul Menon, who was abducted by Left wing extremists last month, is back at work.
When Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh came to visit the town on Tuesday, Mr. Menon took up with him several demands which, if fulfilled, could help tackle the growth of Maoists in the district.
Mr. Menon resumed duty on Monday after being off duty some weeks following his release after spending 13 days in Maoists custody.
Charter of demands
Mr. Ramesh was ready to respond to the requests Mr. Menon made in the presence of a large group of sarpanchs who had come from distant corners to interact with the Minister.
As soon as Mr. Menon sought the intervention of Mr. Ramesh for the construction of an 80-km-long national highway between Sukma and Konta Block of the district, Mr. Ramesh called up Union Road Transport and Highways Minister C.P. Joshi.
Mr. Joshi assured Mr. Ramesh that construction of the road could be divided into 32 packages in place of one so that local contractors could be engaged to do the job at a total cost of Rs. 160 crore as earmarked by the Centre.
Mr. Menon told the Minister that no big contractor was willing to take up the construction of the highway fearing Maoists.
Konta Block, where Mr. Menon was abducted, has a strong presence of Maoists. Official sources said about 70 per cent of the area were virtually under the control of Maoists, with Konta being the worst-affected.
At present, the district has 4000 police personnel on duty and half of them belong to the Central Reserve Police Force.
A senior police officer told Mr. Ramesh that the number of police forces should be increased by three times to affectively deal with Maoists, who were mostly local youths.
Out of the 3000-odd Maoists operating in the district, at least 1000 have arms.
Other requirements of the district, according to Mr. Menon, include the establishment of a livelihood training centre to prevent tribal youths from joining the Maoist fold, construction of about 30 more telecom towers and gram panchayat buildings and digging of more tube-wells to deal with the drinking water crisis.
Sarpanchs to tour Kerala, Sikkim
The sarpanchs' demands included visits to Kerala and Sikkim to see how effectively the panchayati raj institutions are working there.
Mr. Ramesh readily accepted the demand and asked Mr. Menon to make arrangements to send them in two different groups to Kerala and Sikkim at an early date. The expenses for the visits would be borne by the Rural Development Ministry.
The Sarpanchs also demanded timely payment of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme wages to check migration and establishment of more police stations to instil a sense of confidence among the locals.
Menon took up the 80-km NH between Sukma and Konta Block from where he was abducted
He also wanted inter alia a livelihood training centre for youth, digging of more tube-wells